5 Tips to Managing Your Time Wisely

August 10, 2016

By John Yurkschatt, Director, IT Services Practice, Direct Consulting Associates

One of the most important skills a working professional needs to have is time management.  Often if time isn’t well managed on a daily basis, individuals can find themselves working too much, but feeling like nothing has been accomplished.  This can cause employees to lose enthusiasm for their work, or even worse, burnout.  The solution for this is to become a pro at managing your time so that you are being as productive as possible, but not overdoing it.  Here are 5 tips to mastering time management.

  1. Start immediately when you wake up

A key to managing time is to start the day off right.  Avoid rushing through your morning routine, and try to start by making a plan for your day by setting goals.  Even if you use the time during your commute to work to set these goals and expectations for yourself, you will benefit by being able to start work with a clear and focused mindset.

  1. Carry a schedule or planner

Whether you use your phone, an actual calendar, or a planner, use some sort of tool to input tasks that need to be done.  It is important to not only keep a to-do list, but to block out specific time frames for each to-do list item.  Don’t forget to plan for interruptions and leave excess space in your planner for them since they are bound to happen.

  1. Prioritize and organize

Before getting overwhelmed with tasks that need to be completed, take a moment to try and organize these responsibilities, putting the most important tasks first to be completed.  Another helpful approach is to break up larger tasks into smaller tasks.  This will make it easier to chip away and accomplish the larger overall goal.  Additionally, if you are able to multitask successfully on certain tasks, and finish small to-do items while working on larger projects, you can check multiple things off your list at once.

  1. Learn to say no or delegate work

Sometimes, when you get too much on your plate, you might need to say no to certain things.  Whether it is blocking out social media distractions, putting up a “do not disturb” sign, not checking e-mail for a period of time, or even just not picking up your phone, you may need to take the time to get things done without interruptions.  Additionally, don’t be afraid to delegate work if and when you can; especially when there are deadlines for multiple projects approaching all at once, you may need to ask for help.

  1. Take a break

Make sure that you take mini breaks throughout your work day to avoid getting so fatigued that you can’t finish anything at all.  To stay productive, get up and walk around for a few minutes, and take a mental and physical break.  By doing so, you will be able to refocus when you get back to work on your next task.

Time management is a helpful skill to have in any type of work setting, increasing productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness.  What approaches do you take to managing your time at work?

Importance of Cross Training in the Workplace

October 21, 2015

By John Yurkschatt, Director of IT for DCA

While cross training is popular in sports and a great way of developing fitness, there’s another type of cross training that has become popular in business that is beneficial to the fitness and overall health of both companies and employees.

Businesses should think of cross training as a disaster recovery plan.  Implemented correctly, it will help a business to run smoothly in the event there is an absence of one or more key players.  Whereas, employees should think of cross training as a way to become more valuable to the company.

Let’s look closer at the cross training benefits for employers as well as employees:

For Employers:

Mitigate risk.  With cross training, organizations are better equipped to recover quickly from disruptions and handle transitions gracefully.  To be specific, employees will be able to easily step into other roles to make sure the job gets done especially in the event that a key employee leaves.

Discover leaders.  Cross training can uncover some people’s hidden talents.  Companies may see an employee not only be able to learn and perform new duties but emerge as a leader and motivator to others.

Enhance teamwork & boost morale.  Cross training helps employees to appreciate each other’s jobs and recognize all the duties of their co-workers that they may have overlooked before.

Higher efficiency & productivity. Cross training forces teams to refine processes by making them take a hard look at the way they do things as they train others.

Recruiting tool. Today’s young workers want greater satisfaction from their work. They are geared toward seeking employment that allows them to learn new skills. Therefore, employers are more likely to attract and keep good employees.

Derive Cost Savings.  Depending upon the business, once employees have been cross trained, a company may not need to hire as many workers.  Additionally, employees hone and increase skills enabling them to work in multiple areas. The business should see costs go down and efficiency go up.

For Employees:

Growth opportunity.  Cross trained employees may be considered for a promotion faster than others.  Employers may find that an employee has a special talent in a different role.

Increase employee satisfaction.  Employers that cross train have noticed a decrease in employee boredom and stagnation and an increase in productivity and value.

Develop new skills. Cross training allows your employees to build their professional, technical, and soft skills. By building their skill sets they feel more confident and valuable to the organization.

Build teams & relationships.  Cross training gives employees a chance to build new relationships with people they might otherwise never have contact with. These relationships will help with teamwork and gain a better understanding of the bigger picture.

Higher motivation.  Recognition in the form of training and development works wonders for employee motivation because it’s proof the company is investing the necessary time and resources for employees to acquire new skills. An employee who believes their employer is genuinely concerned about their career development, is likely to exhibit an increased level of job satisfaction and motivation.

Cross training can be used in almost any position in almost any industry.  If you have cross training experience or story, please comment below.

Employers Want Self-Starters

By Dan Charney, President of Direct Recruiters, Inc.

A big deal is being made about self-starters these days because it is at the top of a hiring manager’s list. It’s considered one of the key traits that employers are looking for in their employees.

However, in the real world, most people are not self-starters. We don’t always live up to expectations or our own ambitions. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change and become a self-starter. Here a few ways to get fired up:

Go for it and don’t be afraid to fail.  The fear of failure can paralyze you and keep you from reaching your goals. Instead, learn from failure and apply what you learned. Self-starters turn setbacks into successes. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few chances. Without risk there is no reward.

Take responsibility. A self-starter accepts the job at hand and takes responsibility for the decisions and actions they carry out. In addition, they often take on additional duties and responsibilities because they know that if carried out effectively, it can speed up a promotion.

Be reliable. Your boss, the people you work with, and clients should be able to rely on you on a daily basis, especially during peak or urgent periods. Be there on time and be the one they can count on.

Take ownership. Hold yourself accountable for your actions and how well you do your job. Always think of ways to improve how the job gets done. Bring fresh ideas to the table. But back-up your actions with commitment and always keep your word.

Finish what you started. Don’t stop working on a task half way through it. Instead, follow through until the very end. Then, follow-up.  This shows you care about the task even after it has been completed.

Stay ahead of deadlines.  Do your work early. Don’t put it off even if it’s a task you don’t like.  Self-starters don’t dillydally. They are diligent and finish a project or task even before the deadline.

Show respect. Treat your bosses and colleagues with respect and help them out whenever possible. Refrain from office gossip and from complaining about the company, your boss, or co-workers. Self-starters stay away from negativity. They focus on the possible.

Be a problem solver. We are all faced with problems in our work and life. Solving those problems and minimizing the occurrence of problems takes courage and good decision making skills. Self-starters meet problems head on before circumstances force their hand.

Don’t call it work. Self-starters do not feel like they’re in a daily grind.  Rather, they focus on the long-term goal or reward that work brings. Those rewards might include a down payment on a house, saving money for a vacation, or simply growing a nest egg.

Overall, a self-starter is able to work effectively without regularly being told what to do.  They realize that success requires work. Employers don’t need to micromanage them or worry that their work load won’t get done or meet the deadline.

The best part of being a self-starter is that anyone can learn to become one. You need to replace some of your old habits and adopt the new ones mentioned above. This is the first step in becoming a self-starter instead of a self-stopper.

Job Hunting While Still Employed

By John Yurkschatt, Director of IT Services, DCA

For most workers, there comes a day when it’s time to look for a new job or career path.  However, how do you look for your next opportunity while still working full-time at your current job?  Very carefully!

Here’s what to keep in mind when you’re determined to move on:

Keep job search quiet.  It’s best not to confide in any of your co-workers that you are job hunting.  Big news like that often gets leaked. Above all, do not tell your boss.  In doing so, you will compromise your current employment.  As soon as your boss discovers you’re looking, he/she will start looking for your replacement. Consider your good name and job toast.

Don’t use company resources.  It’s tempting to use your company’s copier, fax machine, and email to send your resume to prospective employers. But it’s also a huge no-no to use your mobile devices if they were company issued.  In addition, it’s just not a good idea to look for your next job while on their clock. Use off hours. These days everything is digital and your job hunt is no longer restricted to an 8 to 5 time frame therefore, apply for jobs at home after hours.

Maximize your day.  Get up an hour earlier and commit that hour to planning, searching and following-up on leads. Also, use that time to send emails, prepare for an interview, or any other job-search related activity.

Stay employed.  It’s easier to find a job while still employed. Employers prefer to hire someone who is currently working since they are perceived as more desirable and valuable.  There’s no question that discrimination against the unemployed does happen.  Hiring managers wonder what caused the unemployment and if a candidate’s skills are up-to-date or if training will be required.

Be smart with social media.  Using LinkedIn is crucial to your job search but try not to do a massive renovation to your profile all at once. This might send a red flag to your current employer. Instead, update your profile during lower traffic times like at night or on a weekend or holiday. Also, be smart about your settings.  Modify your broadcast settings so your connections aren’t alerted of every update you make.

Schedule your interviews wisely.  When you get to the interview stage of your job search, ask that interviews be scheduled at times that won’t conflict with your work schedule, such as early morning, during lunch, or after hours. Many employers will accommodate you.  If you absolutely have to interview in the middle of the day, try to use vacation time or a personal day.

Be careful with references. Accidentally using your boss or supervisor as a reference is a big mistake. Just think how they will take it when being contacted by an employer checking up on your references. References should be given upon request only and then even then with the caveat that your job search is confidential for the time being.

Are there more things to keep in mind when it’s time to move on and you’re still employed? If so, share below.

Reasons You Aren’t Reaching Your Career Goals

By John Yurkschatt, IT Director, DCA

Have you been passed up for a promotion lately? Are you not where you thought you would be in career by now? You’re smart, hard-working, and creative. So what’s the problem?

There are a number of very real reasons that could be holding you back from reaching your potential including fears you may have or false-thinking patterns. No matter what the reason, once you recognize the issue, you have the power to change it.

From my experience and vantage point, here are the 10 biggest reasons why you’re not where you should be in your career:

Fear of Success. Many people feel they don’t deserve success in life or fear their own greatness. Just as the fear of achieving a personal worst can motivate personal growth, the fear of achieving a personal best can also hinder achievement. You need to believe in yourself and that you deserve to succeed. Have you heard of “Fake it till you make it?” It means if you don’t feel confident, pretend you are until you gain the confidence needed.

Fear of Failure. Fearing failure can damage everything at work and in life. It ruins your productivity, destroys your dreams, and keeps you from building the professional success you’re trying to build. Don’t fear failure but expect it. Your mistakes will teach you and show you a better way to get what you want and remember there’s no reward without risk.

Thinking Way Too Small. You may be looking at the future one day at a time or even one week at a time. You don’t have vision for the long-term. You see the trees and not the forest. Transformational leaders have one thing in common…their vision is bigger than average. Just like them, you need to open up your mind’s eye to continually seek new opportunities.

Lack of Soft Skills to do the Job. Your hard skills might have landed you the job but the lack of the right soft skills will hold you back from moving forward within the organization. According to Careerealism, the critical soft skills employers most desire in their employees today are honesty and integrity, strong work ethic, emotional intelligence, self-motivation, high energy, and being a team player. The good news is that soft skills can be learned. Take the initiative and get trained on those you need.

Preoccupied with Social Media. If you waste valuable work hours and productivity time on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media platforms (unless your job is in social media), you’re not going to get anywhere. Employers will see you working on “not working.” Your chance for a promotion is gone and soon you’ll be gone.

Feeling Entitled. Entitled, comfortable and security are words that you should never utter or experience. These are words that justify complacency, certain privileges, and low performance on the job. Being “entitled” to be treated differently than you are being treated can absolutely ruin your career. The reality is that coworkers don’t appreciate others leaving more work for them and bosses don’t reward bare minimum performance.

Paralysis by Analysis. Wiki defines Paralysis by Analysis as the state of over-thinking a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. There’s a great cost to an organization if the decision making process overwhelms you and therefore prevents you from making any decision at all.

Negative Thinking. Negative workplace attitudes have an effect on every person in the organization and negative attitudes effects employee morale, productivity, and team building abilities. It also has an effect on the overall workplace environment or culture. Get rid of your toxic thinking and beliefs before they send you into a downward spiral and ruin your career altogether.

Lack of Goals. If you don’t plan anything, play it by ear, and just hope things will fall into place, you are not being realistic. What you need is a clear understanding of the company mission and create a number of professional and personal goals that relate to the company’s mission and success. Put your goals in writing. This makes them more real. By not setting goals, you look lazy and management will perceive you as having a lack of ambition or initiative.

Thinking Like an Employee and Not a Leader. Today, companies are in dire need of future leaders. If you’re giving them the impression you’re only showing up for a paycheck, it’s not likely that you’ll be high on their list of those ready for a promotion or leadership position. Therefore, to get ahead, it’s a good idea to demonstrate that you have leading edge ideas and the ability to implement them for the continued success of the company.

Is there something that’s keeping you back from reaching success in your career? If so, please share your story or comment below.

How Millennials are Changing the Workplace

By John Yurkschatt, IT Director of Sister Company DCA

In 2014, Millennials comprised 36% of the workforce. By 2025, they will make up 75% of the workforce. Compared to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the Millennials have a very different view of what the workplace landscape should look like and therefore, come into the workforce with different expectations. We’re already seeing some companies, including our own, that have adopted new techniques for hiring, motivating, managing, and retaining this young talent. Eventually all companies will need to adjust and prepare for this emerging demographic and shift.

On the whole, millennials are hard workers. But what do they really want in the workplace? Here’s our list of the 7 ways they will reshape the future of work:

Emphasis on Technology.  As the most technologically literate generation, millennials find it important that employers keep them connected with the latest and best technology including mobile platforms. In fact, many companies now offer online pre-interview questionnaires and video interviews. Not only is the video interview process a cost-effective and convenient way to screen candidates, it also highlights the company’s use of technology and can help draw in top talent.

Corporate Culture and Meaningful Work are Paramount. Millennials say that meaningful work is a key factor when accepting a job. They want to know that their work will have a positive impact on their co-workers, manager, and on the company at large. In addition, millennials are especially fond of volunteering whether for skills-based volunteering or company volunteering days.

Leadership Must be Transparent and Authentic. Transparency is one of the top four qualities that millennials look for in leaders so it’s no surprise that when they become leaders it is something they will make a priority. Also, this generation is able to smell phony and pretentiousness a mile away. They’re fed up with politicians and business leaders who don’t keep promises and are more concerned about personal gain than serving others. They want leaders with integrity.

Working from Home Will Become the Norm.  The Census Bureau reported that 13.4 million people work from home in America. That number will only continue to rise as more Millennials enter the workforce. They like the idea of remote connectivity and dislike the idea of being confined in an office from 9 to 5. They value a work/life balance but expect to stay highly connected and engaged with their employer and team.

Rewards and Instant Gratification Expected.  Millennial expectations for rewards and instant gratification are due to their emphasis on connectedness and communication. Technology has cultivated an expectation of quick responses and immediate appreciation for a job well done. However, this appreciation is not necessarily monetary. Instead, millennials want their ideas to be considered, appreciated and implemented.

Annual Performance Reviews Eliminated. Millennials want feedback in real-time or at the very least, on a regular basis. They aren’t willing to wait until an annual review to improve. In addition, they want to know what’s expected of them from the start.

Leadership Development a Must. Millennials have a strong opinion about how they will learn and develop leadership skills. Career coaching, mentorship programs, and rotational assignments are the most desired types of leadership training. Less important are the traditional types of training including e-learning, university courses and instructor-led classes. Millennials want to learn through experiences, rather than traditional training.

If you’re a Millennial, what other changes do you see coming in the workplace? Please post below.